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Archived News: January 1998

From Ian Osborne in England (30 January 1998)

Ian and Sia (Harieta) Osborne have relocated to England where he's studying publishing and printing at the University in Hertfordshire in central England. "It's good traditional countryside life in this area ...not too dissimilar to Fiji. We substituted winter for the "wet" season which I think is an even swap." Ian reports that his photographic book, Rotuma--Fiji's Hidden Paradise, has sold well but that copies can still be purchased by mail order from Fiji. He also reports that Sia is a few weeks from giving birth to number four. For those wishing to offer congratulations their email address is <>

From Antoine N'Yeurt in Suva (21 January 1998)

The Fiji dollar was devalued by twenty percent on 20 January, which means all imported items and items manufactured from imported goods (like bread) will increase in price by some 20percent. Devaluation is expected to create hardships for the poorer sections of the community, and will likely result in an increase in air fares and boat fares to Rotuma. The move is supposed to boost local productivity by reducing export costs, but the effects on consumers remain to be seen.

From Antoine N'Yeurt in Suva (13 January 1998)

I just came back from spending about four weeks on Rotuma. The return trip on Bulou-ni-ceva was very rough due to bad weather, and the boat was very full. The boat was delayed owing to the rough seas, and initially had to unload passengers and cargo at Motusa (Hapmafau) before heading for Oinafa on Sunday afternoon (11 Jan). It finally left for Suva Monday afternoon, about 3 p.m. and reached Suva Wednesday 14 Jan 10 a.m.

Antoine N'Yeurt

Two cyclones (Ron and Suzanne) nearly hit the island this Christmas, but as usual Rotuma was lucky and the windy couple missed us (although they hit Vanuatu and later parts of Fiji). Fara season was good, with many people from Fiji and overseas on the island to join the fun. The games will end this Saturday (17 January) for the Wesleyan side, and end of the month on the Catholic side (as they opened their season after Christmas day). We had a big celebration in Motusa over several days to farewell Fekau Pene who left the island with his family on Bulou-ni-ceva for further pastoral studies overseas.

The water situation on the island was reasonable, although we had island-wide cuts at very inconvenient times on Christmas and New Year days and at least once a week thereafter (and often overnight). A high ranking official from the Public Works Department happened to be on the island at this time, so it is hoped that he got a first-hand experience of the problems faced by the islanders and will look into ways to take remedial action.

The Agricultural Officer and I had a chance to check on the dung beetles, and we were pleasantly surprised to find healthy colonies in Ahau. This means that they have reproduced, and we are planning to introduce some more around the island. The effects will take a few years to be noticed, but already it appeared there were less flies around in the cattle pens where the beetles were found. The District Officer told me that in Fiji, they have recently found an insect that eats flies, and trials have been run on Lakeba island with future plans for Rotuma. So, we may well get rid of those flies, eventually.

Small-scale eco-tourism is slowly taking hold, with several families hosting fafisis over Christmas. Accomodation ranges from traditional bures to small tents, and prices range from $35-63 a week to $50 per day. Tourism is still a sensitive issue on the island, so these accomodation arrangements are not to be widely advertised, especially overseas.

Concerning the oil depot, I could not find any trace of oil spillage on the beach so far. However, I was very concerned to see the method used to get rid of the waste water used for cleaning the tanks. This oil/water mixture is flushed into an underground septic tank-like structure, with an outlet pipe going under the road to Fapufa. That means that the waste oil seeps into the sandy soil, and may eventually find its way to the underground water table. This hidden contamination could end up polluting the drinking water, in addition to damaging the vegetation and local fauna. Many people on the island are now expressing concerns about the depot, and it would be proper for the oil company to have an independent environmental impact assessment done now that the tanks have been in use for some time.

Here follow excerpts from official Ministry of Health press releases regarding the current dengue fever epidemic in Fiji.(Dr. Asinate Boladuadua, Acting Permanent Secretary for Health, 7 January 1998)

Overall, there have been an estimated total of 1,500 clinically suspected dengue cases seen at Ministry of Health Facilities in the last three to four weeks. This figure does not include cases seen by private doctors.

CWM Hospital reports an average of 25 suspected cases per day in the outpatient department, and 4 admissions. At this rate, suspected cases seen to date are estimated at more than 500, with at least 80 admissions. Lautoka Hospital estimates having seen more than 300 suspected cases in the last three weeks with at least 33 admissions. There have been no additional deaths beyond the first three reported.

There have been more than 500 clinically suspected dengue fever cases to date from Subdivisional Hospitals and Health Centres run by the Ministry of Health. Facilities reporting cases included Valelevu (200+ cases), Raiwaqa (250+ cases - 3 confirmed), Nayavu, Nuffield, Wainibokasi, Korovou, Vunidawa, and Savusavu (all less than 10 cases so far). Health Centres in Sigatoka, Rakiraki, Nadi, Taveuni, Labasa, Nabouwalu, Levuka, Lomaloma, Lodoni, Mokani, Korvisilou and Navua all reported that no cases had been seen. These areas should work to prevent the spread of dengue by destroying mosquito breeding sites.
Update: Excerpts from a Ministry of Health press release on the current Dengue Fever situation in Fiji dated 16 January 1998).

Overall, there have been an estimated total of up to 3,000 clinically suspected Dengue cases seen at Ministry of Health Facilities in the last five weeks, with as many as 1,500 cases in the past week alone, including 3 deaths due to suspected Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever. Actual numbers are difficult to estimate due to the overflow of patients in Ministry of Health Hospitals and Health Centres. These figures do not include cases seen by private doctors. There have been no reports of visitors to Fiji being affected to date.

Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva reports an average of 150 to 200 suspected cases per day in the outpatient department being treated for fever and suspected Dengue. There were more than 30 admissions in the past week, including three deaths from suspected Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever - a two year old girl, a 60 year old woman and a 10 year old boy. This brings the current death toll to 6. At this rate, suspected cases seen in outpatient departments to date are estimated at more than 1,200, with at least 110 admissions at CWM. (The report in the Fiji Times on 15 / 01 / 98 was incorrect in stating that there were 30 to 35 admissions per day at CWM)

Lautoka Hospital reported 20 new admissions in the past week--including several with signs of Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever. The epidemic has clearly spread in the Western Division during the past week. Regional task forces have been set up by to monitor and control the epidemic.

In the Eastern Division, suspected cases have been reported from Kadavu and Ovalau islands. The islands of the Northern Division, with a population of 150,000 have reported only one case to date, known to have been imported from Suva. The DMO Northern reports that the North is on the alert, and that Town Councils and Rural Local Authorities have already organised clean up campaigns and chemical spraying activities in an effort to prevent the epidemic from occurring with the severity which it has occurred in Viti Levu.

The epidemic is clearly in an explosive phase in Viti Levu, with an at-risk population of more than 500,000. It is unclear how many persons will be affected, and difficult to predict areas where the epidemic will spread. Unless the public and community organisations respond by helping to destroy mosquito breeding places, there are likely to be extremely large numbers of persons affected, with the possibility of additional deaths from serious cases.

The 1990-91 Dengue Fever epidemic claimed 40 lives, and there were at least 4,000 persons infected. The current epidemic, still in its early stages, has already infected at least 3,000 and killed 6. Without strong support from the public, business and community groups, the epidemic may worsen with high costs to the nation in terms of health care expenses, untimely deaths and lost productivity.

The Ministry of Health is calling for stronger support from the public, community groups, and other Ministries to help destroy mosquito breeding sites. Public Health inspectors have reported that the public has been slow to respond. Clean up campaigns and chemical spraying have been conducted intensively in affected areas.

From Andrew Konrote in Lebanon (4 January 1998)

[Andrew Konrote is in Lebanon with his mother and sisters visiting his father, Major-General Jioje Konrote, who was appointed Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) as of 1 October 1997.]

We have just returned from spending two very interesting days in Beirut. Mum and the girls left for Beirut by helicopter on Friday morning and dad, Emmanuel and I drove up late in the afternoon.

We visited some interesting places on Saturday. One of these places was the old Phoenician and Crusader city of Byblos on the Northeren coast of Lebanon. We took a ride by cable car into the Lebanon mountains to a place called Harisa, where we had lunch and enjoyed the view of Beirut and the coastal plains. In Beirut we saw a lot of Syrian and Lebanese soldiers. We drove through the Beirut green line which was so famous during the Lebanese Civil War. Most of the buildings which were destroyed by the bombing and shelling during the war have been repaired. However, there are still signs of the conflict in the inner city and environs. The Lebanese appeared to be very friendly and accomodating.

We returned by road this morning because dad wanted mum and the girls to see Sidon and Tyre on our way back. When we crossed the Lebanese Army checkpoint at the Litani River, I realised that we were back into war-torn Southeren Lebanon. It was good to see the first Fijian Battalion checkpoint which controls the North- South movement along the coastal road. Our soldiers looked good and I am sure they were equally glad to see us. It was so good to hear that all too familiar greeting,"BULA".

General Konrote wrote that he spent Christmas day with the Fijian Battalion in the area of operations: "It was great to experience a little bit of homely touch with the traditional church service and kava session afterwards.Unfortunately the peace and serenity of the day was shattered by an outbreak of mortar and artillery fire between the Israelis and the different Lebanese warring factions.There is never a dull moment in this part of the world. Looking forward to a more peaceful 1998."

From Emmanuel Konrote in Lebanon (16 January 1998)

Our Middle East visit began on the 2nd of December, 1997 when we (Mom, Lisa, Anmaria and I) left home to join Dad and Andrew in Lebanon. On our way to Lebanon, we were unfortunately stranded in Seoul for two days because of an industrial strike in Israel which closed off the Ben Gurion international airport. We did not arrive in Naqoura (the United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon [UNIFIL] headquarters) until the 5th of December.

We spent Christmas and New Year with Dad and the troops in the area of operations. Within the last couple of weeks, we revisited a number of historical and biblical places in both Lebanon and Israel. Andrew has already written about our visit to Beirut. I will now try to provide a brief summary of our visits to the Holy Land.

Our first visit was on the 14th of December to the Church Of Beatitudes in the upper Gallilee (Jesus first sermon on the Mount). We then came down to Tabgha (the place where Jesus fed the multitudes with the loaves and fish). From there, we proceeded on to Capernaum (Town of Jesus). Throughout these visits, we encountered many pilgrims from all over the world. We returned in the afternoon after having lunch in Ein Gev on the banks of the Sea Of Gallilee. Our next visit was on the 22nd of December when we visited Nazareth, the village of Kana (where Jesus performed the first miracle) and Mount Tabor (Mount of Transfiguration). On the 27th of December, we visited Caesarea (Phoenician city by the Meditarranean between Haifa and Tel Aviv) and Mount Carmel (where the prophet Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal). Our last visit to the Holy Land was last weekend when we accompanied Dad to Jerusalem on one of his many meetings with the U.N. and other Israeli government officials. In Jerusalem, we visited the Church Of The Holy Sepulchre and many other holy sites within the Old City. On the 10th of January 1998, we went down to En Gedi on the western shores of the Dead Sea before returning to Jerusalem via Jericho and the Mount Of Temptation. We returned to Lebanon the following day after a brief visit to the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsamane.

After having spent about seven weeks with Dad in UNIFIL, we are now preparing to return to Fiji on the 21st of January 1998. Andrew and I are attending the Yat-Sen High School in Suva.

From Bruce Richmond in California (6 January 1998)

The Bay Area Rotuman Lopta Club hosted a New Years Eve dinner and dance fundraiser in old town Fremont, California. Koua pigs, chickens, and sweet potatoes were served to over 200 festive party-goers. The band featured the lead vocals of Laisa Bulakoro from Fiji and included 2 Rotuman band members (Arone from Pepjei and Sia ? from Suva). Highlights included dance solos by Selena Rigamoto and Emily Hay, and of course the traditional midnight countdown and champagne toast. Guests travelled from as far away as New York to attend. It was such a success that club members are already talking about what to do next year!

From Mark Vaurasi in Wellington (4 January 1998)

The Wellington Rotuman Group enjoyed their annual Christmas/New Year Party in Palmerston North at Sue and Sef Mua's place. The celebrations started on Wednesday, New Years' eve, with the arrivals of Mark and Karen Vaurasi, Akanisi and Kit Kulatetea, Emi and Chris Scott, Fesaitu and Don Owen. We were later joined by Sinive and Averil Nasario, Ben and Kath Antonio, Ravai and Arthur Shaw, Sidney and Fay Viki, Kautane Henderson, Jenny and Barry Sowman, Vani (a Fijian lady) and her family and friends.

As usual we had a koua with lots of food and drink. Thanks to Sef's garden, we had 'ikou puatkau and 'ikou tin fish, and thanks to Jenny we also had roti and curry).

Our "Rotuman band" provided the entertainment. They played and sang virtually nonstop until the early hours on Friday. We sang and danced a mixture of songs which included Rotuman, Samoan, Fijian, Rarotongan, and Maori.

The teenagers provided their own sports activities, including touch rugby, soccer, volleyball, cricket, minor games and entertainment in the back yard.

Apparently when we all left, Sef and Sue continued to entertain more visitors when Vani and a few Fijian friends, Sef's brother-in-law Colin and his family, Ben and Kath, and Sinive and Averil arrived on Friday.


Second issue - This is to provide an update of the matters agreed to arising from our meeting at Turangi:

TOUR DATES: For Wellingtonians--Sunday 13 December 1998 is the planned departure date. Auckland members have yet to confirm their departure date.

TRANSPORT: AIR--Discussions are continuing with a number of companies to ensure that we can get the best price for air travel from New Zealand to Nadi.

SEA--Mark Vaurasi has confirmed that the Charter Boat "Tui Tai" will depart from Lautoka at 1 am on Tuesday, 15 December 1998. Loading will commence from 10 pm Monday, 14 December 1998. The boat is expected to arrive at Rotuma at about 11 am Wednesday, 16 December. Those wanting to fly to Rotuma from Fiji will need to make their own arrangements. The return date from Rotuma--loading to commence about 9 am, with departure scheduled for noon on 4 January 1999. The Charter Company has indicated that a penalty charge of F$250 per hour will be incurred for any delays caused by us.

COST: AIR--At this stage, being so far from our date of departure, travel agents are not able to provide a firm quote on group fares. However, early indications are that the fare from Auckland is NZ$650, from Wellington NZ$800 and from Christchurch NZ$872. The last date for payment of fares to Fiji will be the October Labour weekend. Mark is continuing to discuss fares with a wide variety of companies.

TOUR UNIFORM: The Tour Uniform was decided upon at Turangi where a sample was on display. Material and pattern details have been given to Rejieli Langi and Fonmanu Hellesloe of Auckland. Wellington members please contact Mark Vaurasi/Ravai Shaw.

TAUTOGA DRESS COSTUME: Pattern/Style was shown at Turangi. Material for the ha'fali can be purchased at Whare Pareu in Auckland. Contact Tivaknoa Kaitu'u or Ravai Shaw regarding any queries.

STAY-OVER IN FIJI: Each person is responsible for their own accommodation whilst in Fiji.

PLEASE NOTE: Anyone wishing to travel with our tour party on the Tui Tai boat from Fiji to Rotuma and return are most welcome. Please contact Mark Vaurasi via email <>, by phone (04) 527 9645 (home)/(04) 527 5004 (work), by fax (04) 527 5084, or by mail to 19 Tararua Street, Upper Hutt, Wellington, NEW ZEALAND.

PS. I will provide a list of contact persons (once confirmed) in FIJI for travel arrangements on the boat.

From Seferosa Croker in Sweden (2 January 1998)

Kesmes oaf'oaf ma fau fo'ou lelei to all Rotumans out there from our small Rotuman community in Sweden. Our Christmas celebration has been quiet here; according to the Swedish tradition, Christmas is celebrated with the closest family on Christmas eve. So each and every one of us celebrated Christmas with our Swedish in-laws.

We all follow the Swedish style in celebrating Christmas here, a big difference to what we are used to. New Year is different. We celebrate with friends, but I didn't have the chance to celebrate with any of the other Rotumans. Only Luisa and Sushila were fortunate enough to celebrate together. And from what I gathered they had a great time. They even did the fara at home with a few Swedish friends who probably thought they were crazy. And why they put powder on people's hair and spray them with perfume was beyond their Swedish friends' comprehension. Fara is still alive even though we live so faraway.

We are only 5 Rotumans here: Luisa, daughter of Rosarie (Juju); Sushila, daughter of Ravai Aisek (Fapufu) and Rita (Lopta); Kaurosi, daughter of Rejieli (Noatau) and Penesio, (Juju); Paulo Sosefo, son of Martino and Nancy (Juju); and myself , Seforosa Crocker, daughter of Ian and Flora Crocker (Juju). Kaurosi left with her family to celebrate Christmas on Rotuma. It's not easy for us to meet as a group because we all live in different places in Sweden, but we try to keep in touch as often as we can since we are so few of us here. Also it's nice to be able to speak Rotuman instead of Swedish all the time.

Again, we wish you all a very happy New Year! Hanisi to everyone out there!

Seforosa (on behalf of our Rotuman community in Sweden)

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